UP-TO-DATE RESEARCH – Violence and Childhood Trauma

Category: News

Childhood trauma is a risk factor for psychosis as well as for violent behaviors and offending. It encompasses subdomains of abuse and neglect that may be differently related
to later violence among patients with schizophrenia. Despite a high prevalence of childhood trauma and a high risk of violent behavior among people suffering from psychotic disorders, few studies have investigated this association.

To manage violence risk among psychotic patients, consistently with main aims of our EU-VIORMED Project, there is the need to clarify specific patterns of childhood trauma that might be associated with violent behaviors in adulthood.

The study:
A recent study, May 2020 – Frontiers in Psychiatry (Impact Factor 3.532), by Guttorm Breivik Storvestre and colleagues, was aimed at exploring the relationship between exposure to different types of childhood trauma and violent behaviors. This relationship was evaluated involving a sample of predominantly male forensic patients suffering from schizophrenia and with a history of violent behavior (SCZ-V, n = 19), as compared to patients suffering from schizophrenia without a history of violence (SCZ-NV, n = 34) and to healthy controls (HC, n = 66). In particular, the authors investigated the differences between these three groups regarding both the level of childhood trauma and its subdomains, including physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, as well as physical and emotional neglect. Information on childhood trauma was obtained using the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ) with relevant subdomains scores.

As far as childhood trauma exposure is concerned statistically significant differences were found between groups. Forensic patients suffering from schizophrenia and a history of violent offending (SCV-V) reported higher CTQ scores as compared with the SCZ-NV group, and both patient groups had higher scores than HC. Noteworthy, the SCZ-V group was more likely to report an exposure to physical and emotional neglect.

Take-home message:
Despite some limitations, including the self-report nature of the CTQ and the subsequent bias in reporting, study results point toward the impact of childhood physical and emotional neglect on later violence in schizophrenia, which may be an area of clinical importance.

To better understand the specific patterns of childhood trauma associated with violence later in life and in order to manage future violence risk among psychotic patients, replication in larger samples is needed.

The article full text is available at:

Full reference:
Storvestre GB, Jensen A, Bjerke E, et al. Childhood Trauma in Persons With Schizophrenia and a History of Interpersonal Violence. Front Psychiatry 2020; 11:383. Published May 5, 2020. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2020.00383

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